Living with the Land: Rural and Agricultural Actors in Twentieth-Century Europe

Liesbeth van de Grift et al.

Omslag van het boek ‘Living with the Land’ van Liesbeth van de Grift e.a. © J.G. van Agtmaal
© J.G. van Agtmaal

Together with Dietmar Müller (GWZO Leipzig) and Corinna R. Unger (EUI Florence), professor of International History and the Environment Liesbeth van de Grift edited ‘Living with the Land: Rural and Agricultural Actors in Twentieth-Century Europe’. A vast number of authors have contributed to this handbook on European agriculture in the twentieth century.

Rural life

For a long time agriculture and rural life were dismissed by many contemporaries as irrelevant or old-fashioned. Contrasted with cities as centres of intellectual debate and political decision-making, the countryside seemed to be becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Today, politicians in many European countries are starting to understand that the neglect of the countryside has created grave problems. Similarly, historians are remembering that European history in the twentieth century was strongly influenced by problems connected to the production of food, access to natural resources, land rights, and the political representation and activism of rural populations.

Historical handbook

This handbook offers an overview of historical knowledge on a variety of topics related to the land. It does so through a distinctly activity-centric and genuinely European perspective. Rather than comparing different national approaches to living with the land, the different chapters focus on particular activities – from measuring to settling the land, from producing and selling food to improving agronomic knowledge, from organising rural life to challenging political structures in the countryside.

Furthermore, the handbook overcomes the traditional division between East and West, North and South, by embracing a transregional approach that allows readers to gain an understanding of similarities and differences across national and ideological borders in twentieth-century Europe.